Judge Thokozile Masipa (the presiding judge in the Oscar Pretorius trial) sentenced 54-year-old Hans Isaacs to 30 years’ imprisonment, of which he has to serve 15 years, for the February 2013 murder of Zimbabwean citizen Chris Sibanda, attempting to murder his common-law wife Virginia Ramodike, and setting Sibanda’s room alight.
Ramodike had sneaked out of the house to be with her secret lover that night. Shortly after she woke up in the early hours of the morning she smelled petrol and then noticed flames.
Her lover broke two windows and they managed to escape but Ramodike suffered burns and cuts to her face and legs and Sibanda died in hospital a few days later.
Ramodike and her son made statements to the police in which they identified Isaacs as the arsonist, but were declared hostile witnesses after retracting their statements.
Ramodike told the court she and Isaacs had been living together for 22 years and he was a good father and provider for her, their son and his stepson.
She later told a probation officer she regretted the affair, but had been bored by Isaacs, who was older and always came home tired.
The court accepted the evidence of two men who testified they had confronted Isaacs for setting fire to their parental home, where Sibanda rented a room.
Isaacs told them he had been controlled by anger, could not bear to see his wife with another man and was sorry for burning their house.
Isaacs claimed the two men had assaulted him but denied making any confession.
He insisted he had been out drinking at a shebeen that night and only found out that Ramodike had been injured in a fire on returning home in the early hours of the morning. He claimed he had never been aware of Ramodike’s affair with Sibanda and had nothing to do with the fire.
Judge Masipa said it was not unreasonable to think that Ramodike and her son’s relationship with Isaacs had something to do with their decision to retract the statements they had made to the police.